Reading 1: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Responsorial Psalm: PS 25:4-5, 8-9, 10,1 4
Reading 2: 1 Thessalonians 3:12―4:2
Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Have you ever found yourself with a rave-reviewed new novel in your hand that you just can’t wait to read? And maybe (like I do sometimes) you start reading it from the beginning and then to alleviate the suspense you decide to peak ahead to the conclusion to see how it ends?
You see, that’s something like what the designers of the Lectionary have done with the story we hear in readings chosen for today. It’s the beginning of a new liturgical year and today’s readings are the first installment of the familiar story we’ll be tracing again through the coming year. The readings are not just a dry factual history; they are the faith-story of the unfolding of the great dream of our God. It has a story-line of love that is almost beyond imagining.
In the first reading we join the story of the chosen people at a time of great political turmoil and social upheaval – leading citizens and families of Jerusalem forced into exile in Babylon, the temple destroyed, Jerusalem pillaged. With an impact not unlike the political and social upheaval of our own time. People afraid, no sense of safety or security, thirsting for justice. Into that turmoil the prophet Jeremiah proclaims God’s promise to Israel and Judah, a promise of the restoration of Jerusalem, the “city of peace” to be renamed “city of God’s justice,” set in a land of justice and right, a place of safety and security. The love of God, who first created the world and set the story of salvation in motion, has promised to do this.
At this point the Lectionary designers skip forward to the end of the story. The Gospel passage looks ahead to the end of the story, to the second coming of our Lord Jesus. He had first come in humility and poverty as the servant of all. In that chapter of the story, the storyline became one of his total self-gift out of love for wayward humankind. In the Gospel the story changes dramatically. Christ will come in a glory and majesty dramatically pictured in signs of great cosmic upheaval. Such powerful signs, as we have seen a number of times in our lifetime, have led to fear and mad scrambling to prepare for the end (as may also happen now). But the Lord’s message calms any fears we may have: “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
The final act God intends for the story has us all seated at the table of the heavenly banquet, anticipated in what we do here. The Lord has shown us the way we are to walk to if we wish to join that feast. It is the way of gift of self for others out of love. That is what we remember and celebrate at each Eucharist, where we receive “bread for the journey” again and again and are sent back into daily life to be bread broken for others, the loving face of Christ turned toward them. That kind of love is, after all, the story-line of God’s dream for us. So we pray with St. Paul (in the second reading), that the Lord may make “each of us increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”
Rev. Gil Ostdiek, OFM